To date, I have no idea why the audio was not in synch with the video during that tech rehearsal. I went through each video on both formats prior to the trip, and, on two computer systems with no issue. It made no sense. (Note: I tested the videos from that flash drive again on my computers when I returned from the California journey. There were no synchronicity issues with the audio during playback!) Obviously something else triggered an audio delay on my laptop once it was connected to their A/V equipment. I was counting on the DVD versions to solve the dilemma.
Once I returned with the discs, I immediately inserted the first DVD, just to test the system. So far, so good. It loaded without incident. It was now time to hit the play button. Will it work, or will the situation become dire, leaving me to desperately seek and devise another solution? I nervously clicked on the play button and to my complete delight, the DVD worked like a charm. Whew! What a relief! Once I confirmed that all three DVDs functioned properly, I went through each one again to set sound levels as I wanted to avoid audio distortion during the presentation.
The electronic hardware provided for the event was a fairly simple A/V system. It was not equipped with programmable capabilities, so I jotted down the sound level settings on a notepad. This strategy provided a means to preset each level prior to playback. (My stage managing experiences come in handy for these kinds of events). Then I ran through each video presentation a few times to make sure I was satisfied with the audio levels and video quality. All in all it was a productive run-through and I was ready for show time!
After the tech rehearsal, I dashed up to the hotel room to get ready for the big event. About an hour before the dinner, while guests were still arriving and checking in, Kathy suggested I make sure one more time, that everything was set and ready to go. I thought that was a great idea and headed back to the ballroom to confirm once again, that all systems were set. When I arrived, the A/V technician also thought it was a good idea to conduct a quick run through, just to be on the safe side and make sure all systems were a “go” one final time. To be honest, this made me feel more secure and supported by the crew, because of the technical difficulties I had run into earlier. This extra step really helped provide for me, that extra peace of mind. Once again, I played each video, confirmed the levels I had established earlier using their electronic device as the master volume controller, and once again, I was completely satisfied with both the crisp sound of the audio and the quality of the high definition video that was projected on the wide screens in the ballroom. I was more than ready for my part and couldn’t wait for the big event!
The dinner was exquisite! Because we’ve been so focused on work and school, it had been a while since my daughter and I had the pleasure of enjoying a night out of fine dining and socializing. We dined with guests involved in the Hellenic media, so the dinner company was both pleasant and engaging. After the dinner part of the event concluded, an announcement was made that the program was about to commence. That was my cue to “places”. I went to the A/V station to get ready for the first video presentation. The initial directions I received had Professor Pantelia from UC Irvine as the first award recipient. Just as I inserted her DVD tribute, the Master of Ceremonies dropped by our station and began to speak to the technician about the order of the program, assuming he was the operating technician. I smiled and let him know I was the Technical Director. He then proceeded to explain the sequence of events and went over the cues to begin each presentation. I was so appreciative, because I discovered the first award recipient was Congressman Sarbanes. I would have felt quite silly playing Professor Pantelia’s video. That could have been an embarrassing blunder.
Once the MC began the program, I anxiously waited for my cue to hit the play button. The correct DVD was on stand-bye, the sound level was set, but I now noticed another electronic device hooked up to the system that was connected to their master volume control box. It was a piece of hardware that was not connected an hour earlier. I didn’t give it much thought, nor did I ask the technician what it was because I did not think it would have any affect on my equipment. The MC had just wrapped up his introduction to Congressman Sarbanes and invited the audience to watch the first video. That was my cue to hit the play button. The music came in and the narrative began. The audio was in perfect synch with the video, smooth sailing so far … hang on … I noticed there was something unusual going on with the audio playback. Listening more closely, a horror came over my face! The audio playback now had an unusual reverberation effect. What the …
Shock! Total Shock! The above image of Jim Henson’s Muppet, Miss Piggy, is how I was feeling! I imagine my eyes may have looked like hers at the time: the size of golf balls from being in a speechless state of shock! I was peeved and felt like Miss Piggy wanting to release a few karate chops at something! Instead, as a showbiz vet, I kept my cool and immediately tried to resolve the problem. At first, I thought it was because the volume was too loud, so I brought down the audio level a few decibels. That did not resolve the issue. There was still an echo effect; a delay in the playback. What had transpired in that hour since that final tech rehearsal? What was the culprit? Then it hit me … Eureka! It had to be the new device that was connected to the sound equipment – the hardware that was not attached an hour earlier. I leaned over, whispered to the technician, and politely inquired if he could explain the cause of the re-verb effect that was distorting the audio playback.
He immediately pointed to the mysterious black box. I kindly asked him to remove it because it was compromising the audio quality to a level that was below my professional standards. Much to my surprise, the man ignored my request. When I inquired again, he explained his hands were tied. In other words, he was unable to troubleshoot or try to find a solution. He advised me that a third party set up the new device, adding he did not have the authority to alter the connections. I could not believe what I was being told! I was dumbfounded and had a difficult time processing this information. Was I really the Captain in a no-win scenario? I was just informed by a crew member that there were no alternatives. In the meantime, I remained professional and stayed calm while we all listened to an altered version of the audio track from what I perceived, emanated from some kind of special effects processor device that was implemented by an unknown third party. This presented a situation where the resolution was out of the scope of my control. (This was NOT in the brochure!) In my perspective, the presentations sounded like they were being broadcast in an outdoor football stadium with an added echo effect. In other words, the mystery electronic device added a slight delay that played over the original audio track.
In truth, the audio was not inaudible. The audience members were laughing at the right places and I could tell they understood the content. As the producer of the intellectual property however, I knew what it was supposed to sound like, and this was not how they sounded during both rehearsals that day. For me on a personal level, it was like experiencing a costume malfunction during a crucial moment in a live show. All I could think during each presentation was, “how do I unplug this special effects processor that is ruining the quality of the sound?” Sadly, there was nothing I could do because it wasn’t my equipment. I didn’t want to cause a scene, plus, I didn’t want to risk making matters worse by unplugging the mystery device without knowing what the consequences would be. In my professional assessment, testing it out during a live show was not an option as the outcome could be disastrous. Needless to say, I was very disappointed with the output and unhappy that I did not have someone from the staff with authority to assist in this predicament. I was at a loss for words and felt the wind knocked out of my sails. After all the work, preparation, many long hours, and effort I put in to making these tributes to honor the dignitaries, this was an occurrence I was not prepared for. Oh well … that’s showbiz and the nature of a live theatrical event!
Next week I will focus on the investigation that was conducted to ascertain what went wrong to avoid running into future experiences like this one.
Until then … Happy Easter to everyone celebrating and keep working on …
“Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed, it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart.” — Margo Anand
*AHC photos provided by the American Hellenic Council of California. For more information on their organization, please click here.